By Theophanes Avery
When Thetis learns from the soothsayer that her newborn Achilles is doomed to die in battle, Thetis thinks she can outwit the Fates by dipping Achilles in the River Styx, which renders him invulnerable. But as he gets older, she begins to doubt her solution, and comes up with a backup plan. If Achilles were to dress up as a girl and hide out among princesses at a girls’ school, he would never go into battle and would thereby remain safe from harm. Now all she has to do is convince Achilles it’s a good idea.
From there, this imaginative retelling of the Achilles mythos takes one wild and wacky turn after another. With his best friends Patrocles and Deidamia, our hero explores teen angst and awkwardness, gender, sexuality, truth vs. lies, loyalty, and how to get by in a world that might not fit him or his friends well. Avery’s heavy use of satire makes light work of a tale whose young characters find themselves on their own and doing the best they can to learn Life’s big lessons.
There is nothing serious about Achilles in Heels, and yet Avery manages to weave in undercurrents of heavy topical subjects in a humorous way, perhaps offering a new perspective to readers who might not have considered those points of view. I also loved that the whole thing takes place in an ancient Greek setting with references to Greek deities and rituals we’ve come to associate with the ancient world, yet a number of modern details show up. Seeing the characters use language that would be more at home in the 21st Century made for an interesting juxtaposition which added to the story’s whimsical flavor.
Achilles in Heels is the perfect book for readers who want a tale that doesn’t take itself too seriously. If you’re looking for light, amusing, yet relevant fare, this story is for you.